I played the first of the three Fire Emblem Fates games when they came out earlier this year, and in a moment of weakness I started in on the second one, Conquest, even though I knew I was going to get sucked into it. It turned out the game was a bigger time suck than I had anticipated, however. I knew the game was going to be harder than Birthright, but I wasn't expecting the difference to be quite so dramatic. I had played Birthright on hard mode, which still wasn't that difficult even without grinding, but Conquest on hard mode was pretty challenging even for a long-time Fire Emblem player like myself.

I'm still a bit divided about how the game approaches this higher level of "challenge", and felt similarly to when I played more-difficult challenges in the original Advance Wars on GBA. In this game since the RNG numbers are in a fixed order from any particular quick save point, you can get through difficult sections just by working out the best manipulation of the sequence of RNG numbers through repetitive trial and error. The enemies have access to skills, abilities, and weapons that your team doesn't have, which makes them feel overpowered. I suppose that's the whole point of it being a challenge, and this level of difficulty is only tolerable because of quick save points and the ability to quickly reset. If it hadn't been my first playthrough of the game I probably would've been more accepting of it, but as it was a lot of my characters were definitely sub-optimal.

I definitely preferred this game to Birthright, though. The maps are definitely more varied, and the characters seemed more interesting, despite being mostly familiar classes from previous entries in the series. I again appreciated all the improvements that this trio of games made compared to their predecessor, Awakening, particularly in the "Tag Team" and "Pair Up" mechanics, and I played around with some entertaining little side activities that I'd skipped over in my first playthrough, such as cooking to get stat buffs.

My MVP this time around was definitely Effie, who has insane strength as well as defense. Ophelia and the two wolves also turned out to be major players, although the children characters get little screen time in general in this game in particular since there aren't many side missions. I'm still divided about the inclusion of the Offspring Seal, which fast forwards a child character's growth significantly. Although I enjoyed the reappearance of the marriage/child mechanics, I'm not sure I'd really want to see them continue in this exact same way for the next entry in the series, but it may be that they become series staples.

It was interesting to see the story from the Nohr side, and more of the background story gets filled in than with Birthright. I'm psyched to see how Revelation is going to play out, and Fire Emblem geek that I am I've already planned out who I'm going to use that I didn't get to use in the other two games. We'll have to see how long I can hold off playing that game...

Challenging Fire Emblem Fates links:
- Official site
- As usual, Serenes Forest is one of the best FE resources online
- Entry at fireemblem.wikia.com
- Page on Miiverse
- Video interview with the creators (part 2 of 2)

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